Clean Lines And Open Space Give This Post-war Design An Edge

The Sunday Age

Sunday September 14, 2008

Tom Reilly

INTERIOR designer Fiona Austin fell in love with her 1961 home at 168 Tramway Parade, Beaumaris, as soon as she saw it seven years ago.

"The design makes such great use of space and light that it's a very welcoming building as soon as you walk in," she says.

In keeping with many mid-century designs, the house has large, open-plan living areas that are made to feel even bigger by the natural light flooding through huge panes of glass.

Designed by local architect Douglas Alexandra who also created Shepparton's town hall and Mildura's art gallery, the four-bedroom house has a study and a huge dining room that opens on to outside decking.

Alexandra travelled to the US and was heavily influenced by Austrian-born architect Richard Neutra, whose light-filled homes in California are collected by celebrities such as designer Tom Ford and hairdresser Vidal Sassoon.

Beaumaris has many homes from the 1950s and '60s, perhaps because more than 50 architects lived in the suburb during those decades.

Mrs Austin and husband Craig, a design lecturer at Swinburne University, decided to keep many original features when they renovated the property."

We still have quite a bit of wood panelling in the living areas, as this was very typical of the early 1960s style," she says."

We've also left a toilet and basin untouched, as I took a tour of Robin Boyd's home and he had exactly the same suite. There's also a shower that's original as it's such a beautiful design and still works well."

Even with these original features, many people who enter the home believe it was built in the past 10 years, Mrs Austin says."

Lots of guests think it was designed by an architect recently and I think that's a compliment to Douglas Alexandra that, even after almost 50 years, it still feels fresh and contemporary."

The couple, who have two teenage sons, enjoyed renovating the house so much that they have put it on the market for private sale and are already planning their next project."

We will definitely be tackling another mid-century home next, probably in the same area, as I love these type of properties," Mrs Austin says.

The house is being sold through Hocking Stuart in Sandringham for between $1,265,000 and $1,365,000. -- TOM REILLY

© 2008 The Sunday Age

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